Friday, March 11, 2011

Millions Well Spent



1. Title : Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa / The Malay Chronicles: Bloodlines
2. Release date : 10 March 2011 (Malaysia)
3. Director : Yusri Abdul Halim
4. Starring :
Stephen Rahman Hughes
Khir Rahman
Gavin Stenhouse
Jing Lu
5. Language : Malay / English
6. Genre : Epic / Action
7. Official website : Mahawangsa

It seems that the KRU brothers have successfully transformed the RM8 millions into a fine epic movie. 'Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa' gives you what other local movies have failed to do before, including the higher-budget 'Puteri Gunung Ledang' - an adventure. Even though the story revolves around the time when Langkasuka was founded with sorcery and pirates were still a major belief; it was so long ago, the portrayal of every character was successfully connected to the setting. This only proves that this movie stands on a series of thorough research, which is an effort we hardly see in Malaysian filmmakers. So, kudos to KRU Studios.

However, despite the overwhelming adoration the film has managed to attract, there are still some perspectives that need contention. First, the use of English language. Choosing Stephen Rahman Hughes to play the protagonist was a great idea. His classical and theatrical approaches seem to work well with historical characters, and he is well-versed in English too. But unlike in Malay, he lacked spontaneity when he conversed in English as Merong Mahawangsa. It sounded as if he was simply pronouncing dialogues. Then, conversations between the Chinese princess, admiral and servant. Although the thick Chinese-English accent gave an original image of the people from China at that time around, but I wonder why they did not speak Mandarin when talking among themselves, instead. That would have certainly scored a higher mark for expression and intonation.

There was an attempt to lead this movie towards the '300' fighting styles. But as much as I wanted to agree that it was brave and applaudable, I could not help but notice the scenes were lacking smoothness. Soldiers were standing and responding unconvincingly to one of the longest battle cries I have ever seen in a movie, and they jumped into the battles with "Am I doing this right, Mr. Director?" kind of faces. And somewhere in-between those bloody events, there were 'Pirates Of The Caribbean'-like romantic scenes that even the involved characters found it awkward to have them done.

If you must compare it worldwide, then this is just an average movie. But worry not, Mr. Director. Considering the fact that it was done with just RM8 millions, some out-of-the-Malaysian-ordinary production sets and young local creativity, 'Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa' is arguably one of the best Malaysian movies (of its genre), for the time being.

Rating: 6/10

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